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Extinction Stories: Performing Absence(s)

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Chapter Summary

More dramatic periods of mass extinction have occurred during which an overwhelming number of animal and plant species have disappeared in the course of a few thousand years. The paleoanthropologists Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin have claimed that one half of the animal and plant species existing today will have vanished in the next one hundred years. The growth of the human population is having a direct effect on this rapidly accelerating rate of extinction. Extinction is sometimes presented as a natural process, removed from human agency, while at other times it is presented as a social and cultural process involving strategic and tactical practices and representations. The disappearance of the thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, in Tasmania in the early twentieth century provides a salient example of how cultural representations have both influenced and responded to changing social attitudes regarding extinction.

Keywords: animal species; extinction stories; plant species; Richard Leakey; Roger Lewin; Tasmanian tiger



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